Rubbing alcohol is considered as an essential in any first aid kit since it is used for the cleaning of wounds, disinfection, soothing the skin and even lowering down fever. In case rubbing alcohol is accidentally ingested especially in large amounts, it can cause detrimental effects to the health if not treated right away.
Components of rubbing alcohol
Majority of alcohol is made out of 70% isopropyl alcohol in water. Take note that isopropyl is not the same type of alcohol that is utilized in alcoholic beverages such as ethanol, but it is also sometimes used in rubbing alcohol. If ethanol is an ingredient, it has been denatured. The process of denaturing involves the addition of poisonous and foul-tasting ingredients to prevent people from drinking it. In most cases, the poisonous ingredient added is methanol that can cause blindness.
Toxicity of rubbing alcohol
Always bear in mind that isopropyl is known as a toxic alcohol. Isopropyl is more toxic if compared to the alcohol that is present in alcoholic drinks. Additionally, it can affect the central nervous system as well as irritating the GI tract. A lethal dose of isopropyl in humans is about 8.5 oz.
Rubbing alcohol poisoning
Ingestion of rubbing alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning. Once an individual consumed large amounts of rubbing alcohol, the following symptoms develop:
- Slow breathing
- Pale or bluish skin
- Low body temperature
Take note that all of these symptoms does not necessarily have to be present in each case. If isopropyl alcohol is ingested, it can affect the central nervous system due to its strong effect leading to lethargy or even a coma. It also affects the GI tract in which the individual experiences stomach pain or cramps. In some cases, an individual who ingested rubbing alcohol will have a fruity smelling breath.
Treatment if rubbing alcohol is ingested
Alcohol poisoning can be lethal if it is not treated right away. Individuals who have symptoms of alcohol poisoning required immediate medical care. You have to call for emergency assistance or take him/her directly to the nearest hospital. While waiting for the medical team to arrive, try to keep the individual in sitting position. If this is not possible, keep the head turned on his/her side to prevent choking on vomit.
When under medical care, the individual will be monitored to ensure that he/she is breathing. In most cases, intravenous fluids will be given or the stomach is pumped. Take note that isopropyl is well absorbed by the body in a span of 2 hours.
Even though rubbing alcohol has many uses, it is important that it is properly stored and appropriately labelled so that accidental poisoning can be prevented. This is important especially if there are small children and pets at home. Make sure that rubbing alcohol is kept in a place that is out of reach.